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Indonesian Air Forces Scraps Deal to Buy Russian Sukhoi Su 35 Multi-role Fighters

Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E Air Superiority Fighter Jets

Indonesia has abandoned a deal to purchase Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia and has narrowed its acquisition choice to U.S.-made F-15s and French-made Rafales, the Indonesian air force chief Air Marshal Fadjar Prasetyo said Wednesday. Indonesia was no longer interested in Russia’s Sukhoi because of a protracted acquisition process, and a fear of U.S. sanctions, although Moscow’s envoy to Jakarta said Wednesday that the deal was not dead yet. In February 2018, Russia and Indonesia finalized a contract for 11 aircraft, worth $1.14 billion. The first delivery was expected in October 2018 but was delayed to 2019. The threat of sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) seems to have had the desired effect. The CAATSA is a United States federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

Indonesian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30

In February 2021, the Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Air Force Air Chief unveiled plans to purchase new aircraft such as F-15EX or Dassault Rafale while not mentioning the current status of the Su-35 order. The Indonesian air force chief did not give details about its potential purchases or indicate whether its acquisitions would include both F-15XS warplanes and Rafales. He said the air force had proposed adding a maximum of three squadrons – that is, 12 to 24 planes per squadron – of F-15EXs and/or Rafales. The F-15 EX team has come to the Indonesian Air Force Air Chief and they told him if they signed an agreement today, the Indonesian Air Force Air will receive the first units around 2027. But many challenges facing the US–Indonesia security relationship, including the arms embargo of the early 2000s and potential sanctions under the CAATSA.

After Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom signed the AUKUS pact in August, some analysts predicted Indonesia might ditch its Sukhoi purchase plan in favor of France. France was furious about being shut out of the trilateral deal, through which a French deal to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia collapsed. The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has expressed concerns about the implications of the Australian acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines for “the continuing arms race and power projection in the region.” It called on Canberra to maintain its commitment to regional peace and stability. Indonesia later canceled a planned visit by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison amid the fallout of the AUKUS deal. On 7 June 2021, Indonesia signed a letter of intent to buy 36 Rafale fighters and associated weapons and support packages from France.

In the past year, the Indonesian military has also taken an aggressive stance on China’s intrusion into Indonesian territory. Jakarta responded to the incident by raising its combat alert status and deploying F-16 fighters and naval ships to the South China Sea’s island. According to a draft presidential decree that circulated in June 2021, the Indonesian government planned to spend the U.S. $125 billion during the next three years to upgrade and modernize its military arsenal. Since taking office in 2019, Indonesia Defense Minister Prabowo has visited weapons-producing countries including the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea, Turkey, and France to secure defense deals. In addition to plans to buying Rafale and F-15Xs, the Indonesian Defense Ministry earlier this year also unveiled plans to acquire 15 C-130J transport aircraft made by Lockheed Martin in the U.S., and two French Airbus 330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) planes. Last month, Indonesia also ordered two Airbus A400M transport aircraft in an agreement signed on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow.

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